Six bikes a week stolen as thieves cash in on boom

THE number of bicycles being stolen in the Lothians is set to soar to a record high, with six now going missing every day.

New police figures show that a total of 1,818 bikes were stolen between April and December last year, a rise of 21 per cent on 2008.

The increase has coincided with a surge in cycling in recent years, with more expensive bikes – many worth several thousand pounds apiece – now on the streets.

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Professional gangs are among those cashing in on the city's cycling boom, taking bikes from streets, common stairways and sheds.

Police chiefs today said they were cracking down on the trend through a combination of education and enforcement. They are encouraging cyclists to store their bikes safely while at the same time targeting serial thieves.

A spokesman for cycle group Spokes said: "I would suspect that this rise is more likely due to the growing number of bikes rather than more thieves being active.

"Cycling is becoming more and more popular in Edinburgh so I'm not at all surprised to see more thefts. It's a shame because it should be relatively simple to keep a bike safe.

"That involves using a good quality lock and being careful where the bike is kept. Leaving it in plain view is better than locking it in an obscured location where a thief has time to get at it."

A range of police crackdowns have been carried out in a bid to quell the growing number of the thefts, including giving officers mugshots of serial offenders, conducting extra plainclothed patrols in known hotspots, and stopping "suspicious" cyclists, such as those who are not wearing a helmet, who may have stolen the bike.

A recent success by the force's Central Initiative Team, based at the West End police station, saw a 28-year-old man from the Oxgangs area charged with a series of bike thefts in the city centre over the past four months.

The man has been charged with the theft of 11 bikes in total, with the stolen property being valued at 6,500.

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A police spokesman said: "Our crime prevention teams continually run initiatives which focus on providing advice to people on how they can prevent falling victim to bicycle theft, and this is coupled with robust enforcement activity that aims to identify offenders."

He highlighted the Bicycle Passport, which is available to download from the force's website.

Top-of-the-range models, costing up to 5,000, are particularly attractive to criminals who are eager to turn a quick profit by selling them on.

Drug addicts are believed to be contributing to the rise in stolen bikes reported to police as they try to fund their habits.

Between 60 and 70 stolen bikes are found discarded each month and they are left piled up in a police compound at Fettes HQ.

The rise in bike thefts comes as car thefts in the force area continue to fall, with vehicle security devices, such as immobilisers, frustrating thieves and joyriders.

The number of recorded car thefts fell to 1,711 between last April and December, compared with 2,736 for the same period in 2004.